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RAF 100: Head Of RAF Says Its Founders 'Would Be Proud'

The Chief of the Air Staff also said the future of the RAF was "in space".

The founders of the Royal Air Force would be proud of what it has become after 100 years, the Chief of the Air Staff has said.

A century ago, on April 1 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged to create the RAF - the world's first independent air service of its size.

It was just 15 years after the first powered flight was undertaken by the Wright Brothers when the decision was made after a War Cabinet inquiry criticised the poor organisation of Britain's air forces.

Those recognised as the fathers of the RAF include Lieutenant General Sir David Henderson and Lord Hugh Trenchard - the first Chief of the Air Staff.

Today, the current head of the RAF is Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier.

When asked about what the founders of the RAF would think of the service today, he said: "Trenchard said 'We are building the foundations of a castle', and what we have done for the next 100 years is build the walls and complete that castle.

"Trenchard put in place our apprentices' scheme to ensure we could attract talent from across society, train them and develop them.

"What he put in place then gave us so much strength and capability in the Second World War.

"Well, a month ago we won the national apprentice employer of the year award - he would look at that and say 'Yes, you are doing good'.

"What they would also look at is the spirit and the ethos and the character of the Air Force and say 'Yes, we recognise that'."

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier told Forces News that the future of the RAF was in space.

He said: "The future will be in that exciting aircraft equipment programme. Increasingly in space as well." 

"In another hundred years, the air force will still be flying aircraft and we'll be in space and we'll be in cyber.

"But there will be new things and I'm sure we'll respond to that challenge as well."

ACM Hillier said throughout the history of the RAF there has been and continues to be the display of courage and fortitude, with which the founders of the service would identify.

He said:

"I think, I hope, actually I'm confident that they would be proud of us.”

To mark 100 years since the creation of the RAF, a national campaign has been launched which began on March 31 with an opening gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

With events and activities running through to September there was also a 100-day baton relay which began on April 1 from outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier was there.

Crown Copyright - Squadron Commander EH Dunning attempting to land his Sopwith Pup (N6453) on the flight deck of HMS Furious

But the centrepiece of the RAF 100 celebrations will take place on July 10, with a service in Westminster Abbey, followed by a parade on the Mall and a Buckingham Palace flypast.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "I am delighted to send my congratulations to the whole of the RAF, the world's oldest independent air force, on its 100th anniversary.

"From the brave pioneers flying bi-planes in the First World War, through to the heroic fighters of the Battle of Britain and the ever-vigilant aircrews of the Cold War, the RAF has continually ensured our safety.

"Now as we introduce the stealth fighters of the 21st century the RAF continues its proud tradition of being at the forefront of innovation, offering a potent force in defence of UK interests.

"They can be proud of what their predecessors have done, celebrating this important milestone and be full of confidence for the future."